We concerned citizens and members of mass organizations, social movements, trade unions and political parties from various progressive traditions have come together in the All India People’s Forum (AIPF) to assert people’s rights to land, livelihood, education and healthcare, just and equitable development, justice, peace, dignity and freedom in the face of the heightened communal-corporate offensive, growing imperialist domination, state repression, social oppression and caste and gender violence and injustice that threatens those rights; and carry forward the struggles taking place across India for a free, equal and just society, where citizens are guaranteed basic rights, dignity and equal opportunities to fulfil their aspirations without the fear of sectarian violence, repression and discrimination.
Despite the promises made in our Constitution, the Indian state has consistently failed to deliver justice to the people, as can be seen in the appalling levels of poverty and inequality persisting after six decades of independence, even as the overwhelming majority of people remain subjected to systemic exploitation and oppression, exclusion and neglect. The shame of a resource-rich populous country like India being home to the world's biggest contingent of poor and deprived people must be ended once and for all, and India must come to be known as a country advancing on the strength of the well-being of its people, guaranteeing food, health, housing, education, employment and decent livelihood for all.
The last quarter of a century has seen the devastating effects of the neoliberal offensive of global capital. In India today we are witnessing an intensification of this offensive coupled with a vicious communal campaign spearheaded by the Sangh Parivar and patronised by the BJP from the vantage position of governmental power at the Centre and in several states. The growing corporate takeover of the economy and communalization of the polity has put democracy and pluralism under serious threat. It is therefore an urgent need to pool all our strength and energies for a powerful movement to beat back the corporate-communal offensive and reclaim the republic.
The AIPF is determined to resist every attempt by imperialist forces, in collusion with India’s own ruling elite, to undermine the Indian people’s sovereignty and autonomy in shaping policies that are best suited to India's own priorities and democratic principles. Having suffered the disastrous consequences of colonialism for centuries, India must reject the perilous course of economic hegemony of the global north and strategic integration with the US-Israel nexus and stand boldly with the peoples’ yearning for peace, freedom and progress against imperialist aggression, domination, plunder, war and occupation. India must follow the principle of solidarity and cooperation with the global South, India must make every effort to promote bilateral and multilateral cooperation with neighbouring countries on the basis of mutuality and equality, rejecting the ominous course of war, confrontation and arms race.
The AIPF will strive for a society free of discrimination and oppression on the grounds of gender, caste, religion, region, ethnicity, language, nationality and sexual orientation. The AIPF is committed to resisting caste oppression and social discrimination and prejudice, and striving for the annihilation of caste. The AIPF is determined to carry forward the battle for justice, dignity and the fullest freedom of Dalits and other oppressed castes and communities and to defend vigorously and resolutely the rights of Adivasis and all sections of indigenous people to autonomy, identity and access to natural resources including forest produce and forest lands. The AIPF shall resist patriarchy and every attack on the freedom and dignity of women, and all kinds of gender based violence and discrimination.
The AIPF stands firmly against every move to deepen communal divisions and create communal distrust in society and is committed to resisting communal hate campaigns and attempts to impose homogenization and majoritarian hegemony. We believe that a robust people’s unity can be achieved only on the basis of respect for differences and plurality, and mutual solidarity of all sections of people striving to defend and expand their rights and freedoms. India has experienced horrendous episodes of communal, caste and ethnic violence of the most dehumanizing and brutalizing kinds some of which have taken genocidal proportions. In most of these instances of sustained mass violence the state has been at best a mute spectator, and has more often been a co-perpetrator or a sponsor of the violence. In recent decades India has also experienced the trauma of terrorism, often generated, worsened or reinforced by the state through the terror of counter-insurgency campaigns and militarization on the pretext of internal security. The real test of democracy lies in taking the country out of the trajectory of sectarian strife and terrorism without ever compromising on the principles of democracy and justice and constantly upholding the pluralism and diversity that is the hallmark of the mosaic that is India.
The AIPF vision of Indian unity rests on the vibrant spirit and framework of democratic decentralization of power, devolution of resources and democratic development based on principles of equality and justice and not through militarization, muzzling of dissent and compartmentalization of the country into pockets of prosperity and enclaves of deprivation and plunder. The continuing brutal military repression of the aspirations of the peoples of Kashmir and the North East is especially shameful. Various constitutional provisions ranging from Article 370 upholding the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, Article 244A promising 'autonomous state' to the hill districts of Assam to special rights of areas under the Fifth and Sixth Schedules of the Constitution have been systematically violated and subverted and even denied outright. Movements demanding newer states are routinely sought to be discredited as separatist and divisive activities and crushed by unleashing severe repression till new states are eventually accepted as a political reality. All this vitiates the atmosphere and weakens the spirit of trust and the bond of unity. The AIPF stands for a healthy promotion of unity through diversity, safeguarding the rights, aspirations and distinct character of every federating identity.
The AIPF rejects the neo-liberal corporate driven mode of 'development' that indiscriminately uses up scarce and precious resources without any concern for sustainability and environmental protection, marginalises workers and producers, and places at its heart the profit of a few over the well-being and rights of the many. The AIPF fights to secure a democratic, equitable, socially just and sustainable model of development that reconciles growth with redistributive justice, ensures the right of working people to secure and dignified jobs and decent livelihood for all, makes judicious use of resources while safeguarding the environment, meets people’s energy needs in sustainable and safe ways, and decentralizes decision-making and allows for people to make decisions about their own lives and development needs.
AIPF firmly rejects commercialisation and saffronisation of education from school to higher education and the spate of moves to dictate curriculum, rules and appointments for imposing the obscurantist and divisive ideology. AIPF resolves to fight for equitable, affordable, quality education for all; for rational, plural, democratic and secular ethos in education; for democratic autonomy of educational and research institutions and cultural bodies. AIPF will actively work for safeguarding freedom of expression and critical thinking, and rational and scientific temper in society.
The AIPF firmly believes that the realisation of the dream of a truly developed and advancing India calls for the unfettering of the productive energies and creative faculties of people which can only be achieved on the basis of the deepest and widest expansion of democracy in every sphere of life. The AIPF recognizes that democracy cannot be restricted to a five-yearly vote alone, while concentrating and centralising all powers in the service of corporate interests. The AIPF will work tirelessly to resist state repression, secure the repeal of all draconian laws including the UAPA and the AFSPA and the sedition law, and to bring about legal, judicial and administrative reforms to empower the commonest of citizens, end the impunity enjoyed by police, paramilitary and armed forces and make sure that all institutions of government are accessible and accountable to the people. The AIPF will also work for extensive electoral reforms to challenge corporate and institutional funding and administrative manipulations and for proportional representation and the right to recall, to ensure a system of government that is more representative, participatory and accountable.
We need a sustained, powerful mass awakening and movement to realise the vision of a genuinely free, developed and democratic India. The emergence of the All India People's Forum reflects this widely and keenly felt urge and shared resolve to foster broader unity and closer cooperation amongst organizations and people from all progressive traditions.
We shall unite, we shall fight, we shall win.